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= Concept and book



Via the OVN wiki, From Wikipedia - Autopoesis:

Though others have often used the term as a synonym for self-organization, Maturana himself stated he would "[n]ever use the notion of self-organization ... Operationally it is impossible. That is, if the organization of a thing changes, the thing changes".[4] Moreover, an autopoietic system is autonomous and operationally closed, in the sense that there are sufficient processes within it to maintain the whole. Autopoietic systems are "structurally coupled" with their medium, embedded in a dynamic of changes that can be recalled as sensory-motor coupling.This continuous dynamic is considered as a rudimentary form of knowledge or cognition and can be observed throughout life-forms.

An application of the concept of autopoiesis to sociology can be found in Niklas Luhmann's Systems Theory, which was subsequently adapted by Bob Jessop in his studies of the capitalist state system. Marjatta Maula adapted the concept of autopoiesis in a business context. The theory of autopoiesis has also been applied in the context of legal systems by not only Niklas Luhmann, but also Gunther Teubner.

"In the context of textual studies, Jerome McGann argues that texts are "autopoietic mechanisms operating as self-generating feedback systems that cannot be separated from those who manipulate and use them". Citing Maturana and Varela, he defines an autopoietic system as "a closed topological space that 'continuously generates and specifies its own organization through its operation as a system of production of its own components, and does this in an endless turnover of components'", concluding that "Autopoietic systems are thus distinguished from allopoietic systems, which are Cartesian and which 'have as the product of their functioning something different from themselves'". Coding and markup appear allopoietic", McGann argues, but are generative parts of the system they serve to maintain, and thus language and print or electronic technology are autopoietic systems.

In his discussion of Hegel, the philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues, "Hegel is – to use today's terms – the ultimate thinker of autopoiesis, of the process of the emergence of necessary features out of chaotic contingency, the thinker of contingency's gradual self-organisation, of the gradual rise of order out of chaos."



Via the OVN wiki:

Question: what are the basic conditions for self-organisation to occur (in an organisation)?

by Kees Berg:

"Interesting question, it is my thesis research question actually. I focus my research on human systems, in which I found the following principles necessary so far to achieve self-organizing behavior;

1. Distribution of control/authority.

Distribution of authority makes the system highly complex, and, therefore, self-organizing, because the freedom of each agent is increased, which creates a chaotic context to work with. The chaos and tensions between all agents because of the distributed control in an organisation creates the fuel for novelty. New pathways are continuously explored and tested, first using mental models, then testing it out in the real to see which path to take is the best 'fit' based on external tensions the system has with other systems.The chaos caused by the competition and cooperation of the agents in the organization is, therefore, necessary to put the system far from equilibrium, on the edge of chaos, so that the whole organization can continuously evolve according to its purpose. Which brings me to the following principle;

2. Evolutionary purpose/goal.

All agents in the organization are constantly (re)defining the purpose of the organization based upon the information they have of their surroundings. The existence of the organization is rooted in evolutionary principles, so the organization has to make itself relevant to other systems in their environment in order to survive and thrive. This purpose is formed bottom up by the agents, and creates a structure/a higher order within which the agents can execute their freedoms. This structure influences the behavior of the agents by top-down causality through positive and negative feedback loops. Decisions by individual agents that add to this purpose are enforced through positive feedback loops, deviant behavior that deflects this purpose are certainly allowed to a certain level in order to experiment, but probably corrected or cancelled because of the negative feedback loops if it turns out that the behavior is not contributing or damaging the purpose of the organization.

3. Qualities of the people/agents in the organization.

In order for self-organization to work, the people in the organization need to be willing to take responsibility, initiative and be willing to make mistakes. They have to differentiate themselves from others in their professions and expertise in order to create diversity in the system, plus they have to be able to communicate and exchange clearly with other agents so that there is a high level of connectivity between all agents. Basically said, there has to be diversity and connectivity between the agents to create a complex enough context out of which novelty can occur.

4. Self-organizing systems need constant energy to sustain its processes based on the principles of thermodynamics.

More obvious, following evolutionary principles, an organization of people are just like biological systems, semi-autonomous and requires external help/inputs to function. Organizations are co-dependent upon relevant systems in their environments. No organization is a one-man island on the longer term. So they require energy, matter or information (raw materials of a low level of entropy) to put products and services back into their environment to create a level of reciprocity. Waste is dissipated into 'buffer zones' into neighboring systems with a higher level of entropy. This dissipative structure of self-organizing systems is key in creating efficiency and prolonging the system from maximum entropy, until eventually, it ceases to exist, like pretty much everything."


The Book

Book: Self-organisation / Counter-Economic Strategies. Superflex, 2008

URL = ; Download at


Danish artists group Superflex have released a .pdf of their most recent book on-line, free to download and share.

Ive not had a thorough read of the book but it covers lots of interesting projects, some Superflex are directly involved in such as ‘Free Beer’, ‘Copy Shop’ but the book also covers things like the recovered factories movement in Argentina, the black spot sneaker, the barefoot college ’self sufficiency in rural india’, LETS System, Ubuntu, and many more.

Here is a short description from the readme of the Superflex download -

“Self-organisation/Counter-economic strategies is about the many approaches to the creation, dissemination and maintenance of alternative models for social and economic organisation, and the practical and theoretical implications, consequences and possibilities of these self-organised structures. The counter-economic strategies presented here are radical alternatives to classical capitalist economic organisation that exploit, or have been produced by, the existing global economic system.

Essays by ten writers cover a wide cross-section of activity, from new approaches to intellectual property and the implications of the free/open source software movement to political activism and the de facto self-organisation embodied in informal architecture and the so-called black economy.

Self-organisation/Counter-economic strategies is not a comprehensive overview or an attempt to unify these diverse interpretations. It is intended as a toolbox of ideas, situations and approaches, and includes many practical examples.”


Here is a list of the Essays -

TEPITO: a barrio of artisans in light of global piracy by Alfonso Hernández

The Right to Mary Sue by Anupam Chander and Madhavi Sunder

The political action of the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil by Bruno Konder Comparato

The architecture of innovation By Lawrence Lessig

Strategies of Transition: Parallelism and Fragmentation in the Western Balkans and the European Union by Marjetica Potrc

Independent media and self-organised culture in the US: Situations and strategies Compiled and edited by Martha Wallner and Will Bradley

Self Organisation: A short story of a family tree by Mika Hannula

Communities of the Question or Who Wants to Know? by Susan Kelly

Digital promises. The future of information societies and two types of social organisation. by Tere Vadén